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USL Playoffs: Reviewing Round 1

It was an exciting and tumultuous first round of the playoffs that saw lower seeds knock off higher seeds in half of the matches. The West in particular was a particular was rife with road teams winning. 

West

(1) Sacramento Republic FC 0, (8) Orange County Blues FC 0 (OCB advance 5:4 on penalties)

It was a packed Bonney Field that saw some cagey, defensively contested play in this matchup. Regulation and stoppage time featured a paltry 5 shots on goal, split 3-2 to the visiting Blues. There was little in the way of noteworthy play in the first 90 minutes and subsequent Extra Time. Sacramento offered strong defense although OCB looked to be the better of the two sides for most of the second half of regulation. Sacramento sub Daniel Trickett-Smith offered an injection of energy for the hosts in the closing stages of regulation and also in E. T., but he couldn’t find the back of OCB’s net before the final whistle.

Things had to be decided somehow, and the lottery that is penalties was seemingly inevitable as teams’ tired legs got the best of them. Both of the first two takers for each team converted, with Jeffery Koval being the sole player missing his spot kick. Star player for OCB Didier Crettenand converted the winning effort for the minnows. They will travel to Swope Park next Sunday.

(2) Rio Grande Valley FC 2, (7) OKC Energy FC 3

A fantastic piece of team play yielded the hosts the lead in the 33rd minute, something that had been coming for RGV. They took that lead into the intermission after an otherwise bland and tightly contested first half. OKC got an equalizer in the 73rd minute when a ball was launched into the RGV box and headed on by Luis Martinez before Linus Olsson finished with a nice header far post.

The scoreboard barely had time to update before the Toros equalized in the 76th minute when an Eric Bird strike narrowly beat Cody Laurendi in net for the Energy. It looked as if things were headed for a RGV win, up until the point when a long throw in by Michael Harris gave the RGV fits and Colin Bonner an opportunity to head it beyond the charging RGV keeper Devin Perales in injury time. OKC added another moments later to break RGV hearts when Bonner nodded another header home, this time off of a corner kick. OKC will travel to the Pacific Northwest to take on Vancouver Whitecaps 2 next Saturday.

(3) Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC 1, (6) Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 2

Colorado Springs came into this game off of a very strong regular season that saw them drop just 12 points out of a possible 45 at home. COS got off to a dream start in the 7th minute when Josh Suggs’ cross found the head of captain Luke Vercollone for a strong finish. The ‘Caps recovered pretty quickly however, netting the equalizer just 10 minutes later thanks to a left footed finish from their own captain, Kyle Grieg. Vancouver went on to net the eventual winner just 15 minutes later Cuban national Kianz Froese found a yard in the box and blasted it by Devala Gorrick in net for COS. Vancouver did a good job shutting things down in the second half and limiting the pacy COS forwards. VWFC2 square off against OKC Energy next round.

(4) Swope Park Rangers 3, (5) LA Galaxy II 0

It was an up and down, back and forth opening passage of play from Swope Soccer Village between the defending Western conference champs Los Dos and the expansion side SPR. Both teams had shots on goal, strong midfield play and chances on goal. The frantic, sometimes contentious play continued through most of the first half, with no team really taking control of the match.

Swop Park started to pile on they grew into the second half- an effort that was exponentially helped when LAII midfielder Jose Villareal was given a second yellow in the 65th minute.  The chances for SPR started coming more and more dangerous looking, culminating in a 76th minute goal for the Rangers, a headed effort by Kris Tyrpak. SPR continued to pressure and eventually got a couple more in injury time thanks to a brace from second half sub Mark Gonzalez. Being the highest seed left after the first round, SPR move on to host Orange County next Sunday.

East

(1) New York Red Bulls II 4, (8) Orlando City B 0

The only surprise here was that it took NYRBII 32 minutes to break through in this match. The first goal was a rebound off of a corner that was mopped up by central defender Aaron Long. Bezecourt added a second in the 13th minute of the second half off of a great strike that eluded the diving Mark Ridgers in net for OCB. Brandon Allen got in on the action when he robbed a OCB defender and danced around Ridgers with a tidy finish. Long wrapped up things with the back half of his brace in the 77th minute when he headed home an effort off of a free kick. NYRB will host Rochester next Friday night, a team they have failed to beat in 7 previous matches. (0-3-4)

(3) FC Cincinnati 1, (6) Charleston Battery 2

Its not often you get a chance to disappoint 30,000 people at once, but FCC found a way to do it. They looked strong early in this one and fed off of the hype for the match. They looked dangerous, got a lot of possession in the Battery’s third and sprayed a few shots Alex Tambakis’ way. Their goal came off of a fast counter in the 19th minute, Eric Stevenson got the ball about 30 yards from goal and wasn’t closed down, and he stepped up and ripped one that caught Tambakis flat footed and fount the top right corner to send Nippert into a frenzy. Charleston clawed one back off of a set-piece throw in in the closing stages of the first half. It was headed beyond a charging Hildebrandt by Chris Tsonis.

Charleston came back into the second half having made some adjustments in the midfield, and only a spectacular diving save by Hildebrandt in the 64th minute kept Charleston from taking the lead, but he could do nothing to save his side from going down just a minute later when the subsequent corner found the head of Zach Prince but also head of a FCC defender stationed on the near post before bouncing in. FCC earned a corner right at the end of injury time and sent Hildebrandt up but they could not convert and left all 30,187 in attendance empty handed. Charleston plays Louisville City next Saturday in Slugger.

(4) Rochester Rhinos 3, (5) Charlotte Independence 1

The scoreline suggests that this game maybe, sorta, kinda coulda been close, but it was far from it. Rochester leapt from the gates and earned a goal lead in the 7th minute when German national Wal Fall (yes that’s his name) struck a free kick from 30 yards away (and I know exactly how far away it was because the field had football lines on it) that found the bottom left of the goal. Dos Santos doubled his sides advantage in the 23rd minute when he disposed a Charlotte defender and walked it in on goal slotting it by Berner to take the game by the scruff of the neck.

Charlotte at least looked to have a pulse in the second half as they launched a few balls into the Rhinos’ box, but failed to manufacture a goal. Rochester eliminated any chance the Independence may have had of getting back into it when they tallied their third of the game in the 71st minute thanks to Sofiane Tergu.  Things went from worse to apocalyptic for the visitors when they had 3 players sent off in the span of 15 minutes in the closing stages of the second half. They added a consolation 15 minutes from the end (somehow) but it was too little too late. Rochester travels to equally sparsely populated Red Bull Arena next Friday night, a matchup they have never lost in 7 meetings.